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Clare Croft: Daring Dances

Clare Croft

The New Model Humanities Publication Grant was instrumental in considering how the digital sphere can (and should) shape my humanities and arts curatorial research project, Daring Dances.

I primarily used funds to design and create a website for Daring Dances, in collaboration with Daring Dances collaborators Molly Paberzs (U-M MFA Dance alum) and Al Evangelista (then graduate student in the MFA Dance program), and design firm, Shift Design. The creation of Daring Dances was inspired by my prior research in queer theory and work as a dance curator in explicitly queer venues. Queer theory’s emphasis on connection across difference and Marxist theory (primarily Hardt and Negri’s theory of the common) have driven my conceptualization of my curatorial work as about creating a web of interlocking, interwoven structures, which open up in a public-facing manner. Daring Dances’ three primary strains have always been envisioned as a student-focused element, a community engagement element, and an artist-in residency program. Designing the program’s website became the perfect research method through which to delineate how these different elements—each with different participants and different methods themselves—related. As I mapped the website’s pathways, I also learned what parts of the project were not sufficiently overlapping with other portions, and thus tested the strength of the web we were constructing.

In the website implementation, theorizing became pragmatic, and I—and the team—also gained skills in Web design. Lead designer at Shift, Wendy Macomber, created the template, but all three of the Daring Dances collaborators, including myself, learned how to update the Website and have been maintaining it for nine months now. This is a logistical choice, but it also becomes a way to see how Daring Dances is not meant to be only a web people can enter, but is also one we are co-authoring.

Finally, the website also led to good questions about Daring Dances’ aesthetics, and the presentation of information to the public. Who do we want the site to reach? How can it best do so?

Funds from the grant helped support Web design; the purchasing of domain names, etc.; and to support our first residency, which brought together artists and humanists to consider dance as a mode of research—another web. Outcomes include the site itself, which can be found at daringdances.org, and the creation of dance work Notes on Territory, a collaborative effort of dance artist Anna Martine Whitehead and Damon Locks. The residency was supported by a team of arts and humanities researchers, including Ava Purkis (Women’s Studies & American Culture), Jennifer Jones (Women’s Studies & History), Vince Mountain (Theater), Kyle Frisina (American Culture & English), and Amanda Reid (History.) Whitehead’s work will receive its Detroit premiere on March 15 and 16 at 7:30 pm at the Jam Handy Theatre.